I mentioned a few months ago that I am burnt out on writing about videogames. Little has changed in that regard since.
Being burnt out is curious. This is not the first time this has happened (the last time it was making videogames, prior to that an entirely different line of work) but certainly it’s one that’s had a most notable effect on my every day.
The thing about burning out is that when it’s happening, it’s not always so easy to notice until it’s too late because that’s how it gets you, how it works. It’s kind of insidious in how good it can feel in the run up, before things go pop. And when the crash comes, it can be more like a light switch just being set to off. No fanfare, no explosions. Just *click*
Whereas previously I found myself idling the time away writing tens of thousands of words about videogames a month alongside my (rather more important) everyday duties, now I struggle to engage with any writing about videogames at all – not just my own. Partly because a lot of my writing has hinged around what is happening at any point in videogames and far too often about the abuse that takes place in videogames, just the thought of engaging with this stuff is enough to shut me down.
Perhaps weirdly, I am neither shocked or bothered by where I find myself.
The past few years have been egregiously stressful in so many ways. Videogames has not been a comfortable place to retreat to as there are certain things I am unable to turn a blind eye to and I’m unable to just carry on like nothing is happening. It’s taken me a few years to push through an increasingly slowing NHS to get a diagnosis (trigeminal neuralgia, if you’re interested) and some vague attempt at treatment for my pain (this has not been entirely successful to date either) and of course, my family life has been (politely) rather busy since Mrs B nearly slipped off her mortal coil.
All in all, I’m quite accepting of where I find myself. This is different to previous times (as the last time was different to the one before that too) but also, there have been previous times – I know from experience that you don’t gain much ground from trying to force yourself to do something your brain and body are exhausted by, that only makes things worse. I don’t especially want to make things worse.
I still read a bit on and around videogames but I choose carefully, a bit of Waypoint, some Donlan, that sort of thing. Stuff that engages with games without the stresses and the scandals, where thoughtfulness and contemplation, discussion, is the order of the day. The grind of news and scandal is far too emotionally wearing. I cannot mentally deal with that stuff at the moment.
Of course I still adore videogames. I’m playing a larger variety of things in recent months, some due to IGF judging as ever but just, I felt like I wasn’t engaging with videogames in a way where I truly played and appreciated them so now seemed like as good a time as ever to change that. Certainly when the muse does return, I have plenty of good things to say about plenty of good videogames. I have played a lot of good videogames.
The words do not flow at the moment though. On odd occasions I find myself firing up the old writing gear and seeing if anything pops out but no, it does not. There is a blank where the words used to be. Even so much as writing a sentence to compliment a game rarely gets further than “yeah, I like this”. Again, I’m not complaining or trying to change this by brute force, it’s more just to see if I am ready to return to writing yet. For now, the answer is no.
And making? I am still able to tinker away at things, albeit slowly. Thanks to the kindness of the internet, I have a much more comfortable set up (and crucially, one where the computer turns on) and if I’m honest, I’m quite enjoying very very slowly putting together my next game.
I’m writing this partially because this is the sort of thing we rarely discuss in games despite me knowing plenty of folk who’ve gone through similar over the years and I’m still me, I still think that talking about the not so great things that hit us is important, that it matters. I doubt I’m the only person in games right now in this situation and I doubt I will be the last.
From experience I know that when things are good and ready, the cloud will lift. I know there’s another side to it. I guess I also wanted people who are in a similar situation to know this too. These things rarely last forever, and sure sometimes something is lost in the interim but there’s no shame in being burnt out, there’s no shame in letting something take a back seat whilst brain and body tries to get to a healthier place once more.
I’m not suggesting the ride from one place to the other is all roses either, there are bound to be bumps and frustrations along the way. It wouldn’t be life without that, really. I’ve certainly had plenty of late.
So you know, sometimes we need to heal. We need time to claw ourselves back or to find who we are again. Sometimes that’s necessary. Sometimes that’s vital.
That’s where I am now.
As I say, I’m accepting of it. I’ll be back in no time at all, really. In the meantime, I’m counting on others to call bullshit on videogame’s bullshit for me.
But I’ll understand fully if you’re too exhausted to do that, y’know? I really will.